You fought the law, and you won.

On Thursday, TopOfTheCops revealed exclusively to the world how one of Britain's most senior judges had decided to do what Parliament had not, and ban magistrates from standing as Police and Crime Commissioners.

TopOfTheCops readers in the press began to share the story so that within a day most of the major papers were carrying it.

TopOfTheCops readers at the Local Government Association criticised the direction as nonsensical.

TopOfTheCops readers who are standing for PCC positions banded together across parties to write a letter of protest to the judge, backed by legal advice sought by Lincolnshire Independent candidate Mervyn Barrett.

And the judge backed down.

Because some magistrates had declared their candidacy before the direction was made he “would not press” them to resign – just take a leave of absence during the campaign.

More needs to be done. The signatories to the letter will meet the judge on Wednesday to press for more. It's likely they will press for the ban on magistrates serving on Police and Crime Panels to be lifted. Perhaps magistrates should be allowed to do the normal campaigning behaviour of party activists. Whether any will press for successfully elected PCCs to remain on the bench remains to be seen. My own view is that the separation of powers can be taken too far. A morning once a fortnight seeing local crime from a magistrate's perspective may be a very useful experience for a PCC.

Maybe there will be a bit of 'no decision about us without us' in response to the lack of consultation before this edict.

So this was a tiny victory for TopOfTheCops readers, and a lot remains to be changed. But while it was a tiny victory, it was also an important precedent. Having overstepped the mark, a senior judge found himself answering to press and public, almost precisely the fear that motivates the judiciary around judicial independence.

Ironically the judge who said that magistrates, holding judicial office, should not meet PCC candidates, will now be meeting PCC candidates himself.

Nowhere is it written that PCCs have such powers to change a judicial ruling, still less the people who are merely candidates for the post, but here we see the beginnings of officials bowing to influence rather than formal powers, and this to people who don't yet have the mandate of millions behind them

Just imagine what it will be like when they are the real thing.


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7 Responses to You fought the law, and you won.

  1. catemoore says:

    Although I’m not sure there will not be a single PCC who will really truly have the mandate of millions (a failing of our ‘democratic’ system?), I agree with the point of this article. Such pressure from mere candidates bodes ill indeed for the future when clearly the strength of PCCs together will enable a self serving environment. Unhealthy and another negative impact on modern policing.

  2. Perhaps you could also show your support for those of us who have had to stand down due to our being members of Community Safety Partnerships.

    • samchapman says:

      That’s not in the direction I quoted. is there another direction out there, because such a rule is silly. I used to have the Chair of the local bench on my CSP. PCCs, JPs and CSPs are all on the same side – there should beno conflict.

      • I had 24 hours to either resign as a Magistrate or to resign my position as Chair of the Medway Community Safety Partnership, this followed a direction last month and the only consultation was a statement in last months Magistrates Magazine.

  3. Steve Gonetolunch says:

    Too much has been said about whether certain offices can be kept while campaigning for PCC or applying for PCC posts. The truth is that there would be a conflict of interest. We are not all on the same side either. The law should proceed as parliament has laid down. It is the will of the people. If a PCC were to keep their magistrates post you would have a prosecutor with one hat on who removes that hat to put on a judges hat instead. The magistrates impartiality would be impeached as they would also be directing funds to tackle particular crimina l(as a PCC), who may end up in court in front of the very person they pursue, thus, a conflict of interest. The same would apply to JP’s. To not understand the rule or why it is in place should disqualify you from applying for the PCC post in the first place.

    One prosecutres the law and one sits in judgement of its application. Neither can be both.

  4. Sceptical of PCC's says:

    If Magistrates can keep serving whilst standing why shouldn’t Police Officers? As long as they resign if they get elected then there is no conflict!

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